A nurse (rarely medic) is a healthcare professional, who along with other health care professionals, is responsible for the treatment, safety, and recovery of acutely or chronically ill or injured people, health maintenance of the healthy, and treatment of life-threatening emergencies in a wide range of health care settings.
Nurses may also be involved in medical and nursing research and perform a wide range of clinical and non-clinical functions necessary to the delivery of health care. Nurses also provide care at birth and death. There is currently a shortage of nurses in the United Kingdom, United States, Canada, and a number of other developed countries.
Education and regulation
Typically, there are several distinct types of nurses distinguished by the area they work in (e.g., emergency department, pediatrics, adult, older adult, psychiatric, etc.). Nurses throughout the world are increasingly employed as registered nurses, advanced practice nurses, clinical nurse specialists and nurse practitioners. At the top of the educational ladder is the doctoral-prepared nurse. Nurses may gain a PhD or another doctoral degree, specializing in research, clinical nursing, and so forth. These nurses practice nursing, teach nursing, and carry out nursing research.
In various parts of the world, the educational background for nurses varies widely. In some parts of eastern Europe, nurses are high school graduates with twelve to eighteen months of training. In contrast, Chile requires any registered nurse to have at least a bachelor's degree.
In the United Kingdom, nurses must attend a university in order to qualify as a nurse. Student obtain either a Advanced Diploma in Higher Education or a Bachelor's Degree (which varies from institution to institution; some may award BCs, whilst others may award a BN). Some university courses attract an Honours Degree (e.g., BN (Hons)). The requirements for the degree or the diploma are set down by the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC), which is the regulatory body for nursing and midwifery. Typically, student nurses will complete a minimum of three extended (42 weeks) academic years, of which 50% is theoretical and 50% is practical. A variety of placements are attended during this time, including care of the elderly, medical and surgical wards, community and critical care, and maternity wards.
Nursing is one of the most female-dominated occupations, however more men are becoming nurses today. In 2007, internationally, 10.7% of registered nurses and 10.4% of licensed practical nurses were male. Although the rise in the number of males entering and working in the nursing profession is an ongoing trend, females continue to predominate in nursing, as well as in the health care sector as a whole.
Governments regulate the profession of nursing to protect the public.
In the United Kingdom, following successful completion of a Bachelor's Degree or HND, the higher educational institution commences the registration process with the NMC. This includes a declaration of good health and good character for each student. The NMC will then sent out an invitation to register to each student, and, after returning the form and payment (currently £76), the NMC registers the student as a registered nurse. This registration has to be renewed every year. Currently, there are almost 700,000 registered nurses in the United Kingdom (NMC, 2009).
In the United Kingdom, nurses must study and register as a nurse in one of four branches; adult, child, mental health or learning disability. Nurses may obtain dual registration by completing a further university course in the second branch. This is shorter than an initial qualification, as the first twelve months of the pre-registration course is known as a Common Foundation Programme (CFP). This is the same through the four branches, so someone studying for registration in a second branch does not need to repeat this stage. The branches are currently under review.
Other healthcare workers
Health care settings generally involve a wide range of medical/health-related personnel who work in collaboration with nurses.
Examples include: Nursing assistants, orderlies, auxiliary nurses, medical assistants, personal support workers. These types of unlicensed health care workers work both in acute and primary settings, under the supervision of registered nurses or licensed practical nurses (in the US). They assist nurses by giving basic care, taking vital signs, administering hygienic care, assisting with feeding, giving basic psychosocial care, housekeeping, and similar duties. See also hospital volunteers.
- EMTs and Paramedics work closely with emergency and critical care nurses to stabilize life-threatening trauma and medical emergencies and to provide a seamless transfer of care from incoming ambulances to awaiting medical/surgical teams.
- Technicians: , certified medication aides in the US, are trained to administer medications in a long-term care setting. There are also phlebotomy technicians, who perform venipuncture; surgical technologist (US), and technicians trained to operate most kinds of diagnostic and laboratory equipment, such as X-ray machines, electrocardiographs, and so forth.
- Physicians rely on nurses' ability to follow orders to ensure a continuity of patient care.
- Pharmacists are responsible for the safe dispensing of medicine and offering of expert advice on drug therapies.
- Allied health professionals such as respiratory therapists, medical technologists, speech therapists, occupational therapists, nurses operating department practitioners (UK) and physical therapists work with nursing staff.
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